OSHA Proposes Biggest Fine Ever in Pennsylvania Steel Case
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government Wednesday accused USX Corp. of more than 2,000 repeated and deliberate violations of worker-safety standards at two Pennsylvania steel plants and proposed fining the company a record $7.3 million.
The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the company had ignored many of the alleged violations despite an agreement to eliminate them two years ago. Many problems were similar to those blamed for past deaths at the two plants in question, the agency said.
″The magnitude of these penalties and citations is matched only by the magnitude of the hazards to workers which resulted from corporate indifference to worker safety and health and severe cutbacks in the maintenance and repair programs needed to remove these hazards,″ Labor Secretary Elizabeth Dole said in announcing the citations and proposed record fine.
″Company managers had known about many of these safety and health deficiences at the plants for years, yet have failed to take necessary action to correct the hazards,″ said Assistant Secretary Gerard F. Scannell, who heads OSHA.
USX has 15 working days to contest the citations and fines.
Company spokesman Thomas Ferrall said USX officials would have to review the citations before commenting on the specifics but disputed the contentions from the Labor Department officials that company management had ignored safety concerns.
″There is no consideration more important than the health and safety of our employees,″ Ferrall said in a telephone interview. ″Our commitment to all of our people at all of our plants is to provide a safe and healthy workplace. We think we are doing that.″
Ferrall said the company cooperated with OSHA and corrected safety problems discovered during the investigation.
The agency accused USX of 1,628 violations at its Fairless Hills steel mill on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River near Trenton, N.J. and proposed a fine of $6,095,600 for them. That figure itself is the highest OSHA has ever proposed for violations at a single work site.
The company was accused of 376 violations at its Clairton Coke Works near Pittsburgh. OSHA proposed a fine of $1,202,600 for those.
The alleged violations include failure to provide safe walking and working surfaces; substandard crane-safety standards; failure to properly guard machines and power transmission equipment; noise violations; failure to keep accurate records of injuries and illnesses; structural flaws; and violations of electrical-safety standards.
Together the proposed fines total $7,298,200. The previous record was $5.1 million against companies involved in a building collapse at Bridgeport, Conn.
The Bridgeport fine was the largest for a single site. The largest for a single company was $4.3 million against John Morrell Co. two years ago for alleged violations at its meat-packing plants. Both the Bridgeport and Morrell fines are being contested.
The agency sometimes accepts lesser amounts after negotiations with the companies involved.
The citations stem from OSHA inspections that began in May at the Clairton works, which has 1,500 workers, and in June at Fairless Works, which employs 4,000. The United Steelworkers union filed a complaint that triggered the Clairton inspection; employee complaints led to the other.
OSHA said there have been three worker fatalities fatalities at the two plants in the past two years and 17 since 1972.
″The seriousness of the threat to worker safety and health in the two plants cannot be underestimated,″ said Linda Anku, chief of OSHA’s Philadelphia office.
″The big problem is that USX management has proved unwilling to devote the necessary resources and manpower to removing hazards and to safeguarding safety and health in the plants.″